A Bag Lady without the Bag

By Erika Hoffman

The flight from Cape Town to Kasane was uneventful except our luggage didn’t fly with us but instead became stranded in Johannesburg. The sad thing was my husband and I predicted it.

At the Cape Town airport, everyone in our tour was lined up to be checked in on the left where our guide, Andrew, aided in the process. A bossy woman with the airlines directed hubby and me to a reservationist, who wasn’t busy, on the right. Although we protested and told her we were part of the group queued up on the left, she signaled we were to go to the reservationist, who was noshing her lunch behind the counter on the right.

This employee didn’t seem happy to accommodate. We told her we were changing planes in Johannesburg and then on to Kasane. I took out my tickets and showed them to her. Very nonchalant was she. Hardly would she glance at the tickets. She put stickers on our suitcases and set them on the conveyor belt. We were given one boarding pass each. At that point, our guide Andrew looking for his lost sheep – us – scooted over and told her something in Afrikaans, and she produced two more boarding passes for our next leg of the trip.

Then, I saw a mild hint of concern, dare I say, sheepishness, as she whispered something to the man next to her who got on a walkie-talkie, and though I couldn’t discern what he garbled into the thing, I’m sure he was trying to redirect our luggage to Kasane. I was certain our suitcases were disembarking in J-berg though we’d journey on. We told all the group we’d not be seeing our luggage, and therefore it hadn’t done any good to follow the advice to plant an outfit of mine in my husband’s case, and he do the same with an outfit of his in mine, as both pieces were going to be lost. I’m not sure anyone believed us. When we reached Kasane without our luggage, our fellow trekkers looked surprised and gazed at us as if we were soothsayers. We knew that girl whose lunch we interrupted had dispatched our baggage prematurely, although she never owned up to it!

A van got us to Kasane Immigration, which is a concrete building with a lot of official folks standing around, but only two working. A woman took our temperature by pushing some sort of laser gauge at us, and then a man in long sleeves and a bowtie checked our papers. Behind them was a huge white board, and on it were the days of the week, and each box recorded murders (M), thefts (T), drugs (D), or rapes (R).Wednesday was marked “M.D.R.” I assume the crime spree was done by the same perp. Pigs grazed outside, covered in muck. The path was stony, littered with manure, and presented many tripping hazards, especially for those of us who were young when Bruce Springsteen was young, which was the whole group.

We climbed into tenders and motored out to the Zambezi Queen, a riverboat to become our home for the near future on the Chobe River in Namibia. Because we had no luggage, we wore the same clothes when I went bird watching and my husband went angling. We wore the same clothes for the sundowner cocktail hour and the same clothes for dinner that night. When we returned to our cabin, there were two tees there with the Zambezi Queen logo. After sleeping in them and using them as our shirts the next day at breakfast, everyone sympathized with me. Make-up less, I looked like a bag lady without the bag. Then, we trekked back down to our cabin, discouraged, and wearily opened the door. VOILA! Our suitcases were there on the bed. Surprise! And Hallelujah!

The silver lining of lost luggage? We got two free comfortable tees that I still wear. And a memory and a story out of our African travel luggage snafu.

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman collected many of her travel stories and published them in a book called Erika’s Take on Travel. It’s on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.

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18 Responses to “A Bag Lady without the Bag”

  1. Paulette Terwilliger says:

    Anxiety grew in my chest as I read Erika’s description of the situation. What is worth than anything? Well, maybe not getting the covid 19, is losing your luggage on the trip you’ve been looking forward to for a long time. And if you have not experienced it, you can definitely know what it feels like through Erika’s excellent writing. I very much enjoyed reading the story, maybe because I’m not the one who experienced it personally.

  2. Elaine Crigler says:

    Another personal funny experience from Erika. Hoffman. I really enjoy reading her stories thank you

  3. Another well written travel adventure with a bit of humor and sarcasm, Erika! Anyone that has experienced this knows it can almost ruin a trip! We learned that it is worthwhile to have a carryon with extra clothes and toiletries just in case! I’m glad your story had a happy ending!

  4. Nancy says:

    I don’t know which was scarier, seeing you had no bags or seeing that white board!
    What a welcome!
    Thank you for your wonderful ability to wring a smile out of any situation!

  5. Cora L Brown says:

    Lost luggage is a traveler’s worst nightmare, and losing it in a foreign country can only add to the angst. Kudos to Erika and her husband for keeping a positive attitude and letting the situation resolve itself with grace.

  6. Lost luggage can make a trip more stressful, and it must have been so much worse since you predicted it. Kudos to you for not letting it ruin your vacation!

  7. Good story, humorously told. Erika always finds the fun in things. Travel tales do support my decision to stay home and nurture my blood pressure though!

  8. margaret de st aubin says:

    Great story! I could see it all unfolding, as Erika described the scene to perfection! Haven’t we all been there?? She and her hubby took it in stride which is a valuable lesson and one hopefully I’ll remember next time…. Since I can’t travel, keep the travel stories coming! It’s almost as good as being there!

  9. Good story Erika. It’s funny how the travels when things go wrong are the ones remembered best.

  10. Linda O'Connell says:

    I could feel your angst. Your stories always keep me engrossed in your adventures.

  11. Ann Goebel says:

    Erika, judging from your picture, you were an attractive “bag lady!” That you feared lost luggage is a tribute to your sense of reality and a lesson for any traveler. Love your string of details and the hints of something going awry.

  12. Dallas Swan says:

    Oh so funny and how it’s happened to everyone. Typically on a trip I wear the same black pantsuit the whole time. But it’s still traumatic to go without. It’s really hard in a foreign country to speak up and say no thank you I will wait. But we live and learn I don’t think the pig minded the dirty clothesb

  13. Sheila Mann says:

    Good story and the vivid detail enhanced the images. It brings back memories of my lost luggage experiences. Thanks for sharing this.

  14. Carol Trejo says:

    Got to love reading about someone else’s lost luggage stories. Mine did not work out near as well! Good for you for being able to find the humor and not let it ruin a great vacation. Reminder to me to always look for the positive in life. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Claudia Frost says:

    Thanks for another fun story. It made me smile. Definitely I needed one today. Glad your luggage arrived before too many days passed.

  16. Rose Ann says:

    Oh…that moment when you know something’s wrong and you can’t do anything to make it right! Sounds like the trip was still a success and a tee shirt as a trophy, to boot! Enjoyed your story.